Background Photo Provided by the
Nebraska Tourism Commission
Offical Nebraska Government Website
Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Running Government Like a Business

The Governor’s official photo is available here.

One of the core duties of state government is to protect society’s most vulnerable citizens and to provide a safety net for those who truly need a hand up, while ensuring that your hard earned tax dollars are spent wisely. Upon taking office, I promised to make state government more effective and efficient, and that our agencies would take a customer-focused approach to serving the citizens of our state. This is the same mindset our state’s small businesses and companies are utilizing every day to improve their products and services so that they can grow and adapt to new consumer demands. If businesses in the private sector fail to adapt, their competitors put them out of business. To thrive, they have to look for efficiencies, stay ahead of the competition, and strive to put their customers first. While no one will put government out of business, building that culture of continuous improvement in state government will help foster an environment that grows Nebraska.

Some have described state government as a monopoly because it provides services to our citizens without any other competitor for the same customers or market. In many ways, this lack of competition has discouraged improving the quality of services the state can offer or held leadership back from looking for better ways to utilize taxpayer dollars. We can and we will do better. Already we are making improvements to ACCESSNebraska. The Department of Corrections is developing new prison sentence calculation software so that inmates are no longer let out early. The Department of Labor launched a new reemployment program to connect jobseekers with some of the over 50,000 job openings across our state.

Running state government like a business may be new to Nebraska, but it is critical to building an environment that encourages job growth and attracts young people who are looking for a place to live, work, and raise their family. One of my first focuses as governor was making sure we had the right team in place to lead the state and tasking them with reviewing existing management practices and processes. Even with the right vision, having the right business-minded team in place is essential to carrying out the vision and applying these principles. 

Recruiting and hiring business-minded leadership has allowed my administration to implement fresh management practices that are already changing the way state government works. We are applying commonsense management practices that are standard in private sector businesses. In the early days of my administration, I conducted a high-level review of cabinet-level management and human resource practices. Following the review, we decided to develop job descriptions and performance metrics for cabinet-level positions. These are fundamental practices in the jobs Nebraskans work every day. For the State of Nebraska, job descriptions have helped us recruit the right talent with the right skill sets for the cabinet. To measure the performance of agencies and directors, my office will also conduct annual reviews for each agency-level cabinet position. 

To help implement these management practices and to assist with this mission, I also made changes in my own office by hiring a Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). While many businesses have long employed a COO and CHRO, these positions are new to state government. In my office, the COO focused on developing a sustainable approach that will make government more customer focused, efficient, and effective. These initiatives will improve the performance of state agencies and the delivery of services across state government. The CHRO worked with directors to recruit, retain, and develop the best talent to lead state agencies.

Good leadership practices will take time to take root – change will happen incrementally. These initial reforms are important, however, we need to build a culture of continuous improvement. Reform is not something that is one and done. It is a process that involves continual review and fresh tactics. If you have ideas of your own, please call or email my office at 402-471-2244 or pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov. I look forward to hearing your ideas on how we can run government more like a business!

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